‘Entrepreneurship is the Answer’

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

As the academic year comes to a close, the 13 MAP teams organized and funded by WDI have finished their projects and successfully delivered final reports to their sponsoring organizations.

Multidisciplinary Action Projects, or MAP for short, is an annual, action-based learning course offered at the Ross School of Business in which MBA students work on projects for organizations all over the world under the guidance of faculty advisors. Each project requires analytical rigor, critical thinking, and teamwork among students. Sponsoring organizations receive first-rate deliverables and data-driven recommendations from the teams of students. (Learn more about this year’s MAP projects organized by WDI here; find more information on WDI’s MAP projects over the years here.)

After learning about their projects and conducting secondary research for several weeks, the students then spend two to four weeks working with their organizations in the field.

Two of those projects – in Hanoi, Vietnam and Madurai, India – focused on laying the groundwork for centers designed to support local entrepreneurs and are part of a joint effort between WDI and the Zell Lurie Institute (ZLI). To assist the students on their projects, WDI Education Initiative Vice President Amy Gillett and Program Coordinator Nathan Rauh-Bieri provided advice and guidance based on WDI’s prior work in entrepreneurship development (see WDI’s newly-launched Entrepreneurship Development Center).

Here is a recap of the two projects.


Vietnam Partners LLC

The Vietnam Partners MAP project was co-funded by ZLI, and hosted by Vietnam Partners, LLC. The project’s goal was to create a launch plan for an entrepreneurship service center in partnership with Hanoi Business School (HSB). The student team conducted more than 45 interviews with entrepreneurs, HSB administrators, and other stakeholders. They discovered that Vietnam’s entrepreneurs need help growing their business – not just starting them – and would welcome an entrepreneurship development center.  

“The environment in Vietnam is ripe for this kind of organization,” said Bradley LaLonde, the team’s supervisor at Vietnam Partners.

At the end of their project, the students presented a business plan for a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at HSB. The team identified a local hunger for practical rather than theoretical training, and training customized to the local ecosystem. More specifically, the MAP team identified a lack of local business cases. After a conversation with WDI, the MAP team suggested that a sustained effort around creating local cases, similar to WDI’s Philippines Case Collection, could be high-potential way to train Hanoi’s practice-hungry entrepreneurs.

Team member Juan Recalde said the project taught him that entrepreneurs have different needs.

“That was a very important learning because we could segment different types of entrepreneurs and based on the segmentation, determine which segment to target,” he said.

Recalde said he will take what he learned – specifically market research and creating a launch strategy for an entrepreneurship development center – and try to replicate it in his hometown.

“Formosa is one of the poorest provinces of Argentina and the government plays a big role in the economy, while the private sector is small,” he said. “I believe that entrepreneurship is the answer to the growth issues that my province faces.”

Stewart Thornhill, executive director of ZLI and the team’s academic advisor, praised the team for how well they represented U-M, WDI and ZLI and for their mature analysis of the project.  

“They didn’t treat entrepreneurs as a generic class, but were able to identify specific personas,” he said. “Their in-depth qualitative research will serve this center’s clients well in the future.”

WDI President Paul Clyde, who also advised the team, said they gave Vietnam Partners good insights into the current situation with the country’s entrepreneurs.

“There is no substitute for having information from people who have spent time on the ground to get a good feel for what is going on,” Clyde said. “This is exactly the type of situation in which MAP projects are effective tools for us and for sponsors.”


Aparajitha Foundation

The MAP team, based in Madurai, India, was tasked with setting up a business model for Aparajitha Foundation to provide services to the city’s Madurai’s micro, small, and medium enterprises – or MSMEs. This work builds on last year’s MAP project with Aparajitha.

The student team’s final report outlined the gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Madurai, the market opportunity, business model, financial model, implementation plan, and key learnings. The team recommended that GROW, a conceptual organization to meet the needs of growth-stage entrepreneurs, be launched. The students also provided an outline of what was needed to have GROW operating within two years and expand to a second locale within five years.

Clyde, the team’s academic advisor, lauded the students’ efforts.

“They were able to get up to speed quickly on the current situation and combined that with some careful thinking about different models for providing services to entrepreneurs,” he said. Aparajitha “has already made significant progress in (its) engagement with the entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu.”

The project left a definite impression on team member Nancy McDermott, who, though having a background in the community development aspects of business, experienced “what a big impact supporting entrepreneurs locally has on the local economy.”

Particularly, the project’s scope exposed her to how entrepreneurship can “spark job creation at a grassroots level,” she said, adding that she saw “what a big impact this is having on Madurai’s economy, and what kind of impact it can have on other economies as well.”

This summer, a WDI intern will pick up where the student MAP team left off and develop diagnostic tools that will identify the challenges a given entrepreneur faces and thus how GROW can work with the entrepreneur most effectively.  


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